Articles | Volume 7, issue 12
Research article
08 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 08 Dec 2014

Differences in aerosol absorption Ångström exponents between correction algorithms for a particle soot absorption photometer measured on the South African Highveld

J. Backman, A. Virkkula, V. Vakkari, J. P. Beukes, P. G. Van Zyl, M. Josipovic, S. Piketh, P. Tiitta, K. Chiloane, T. Petäjä, M. Kulmala, and L. Laakso

Abstract. Absorption Ångström exponents (AAEs) calculated from filter-based absorption measurements are often used to give information on the origin of the ambient aerosol, for example, to distinguish between urban pollution and biomass burning aerosol. Filter-based absorption measurements are widely used and are common at aerosol monitoring stations globally. Several correction algorithms are used to account for artefacts associated with filter-based absorption techniques. These algorithms are of profound importance when determining the absolute amount of absorption by the aerosol. However, this study shows that there are substantial differences between the AAEs calculated from these corrections. Depending on the used correction, AAEs can change by as much as 46%. The study also highlights that the difference between AAEs calculated using different corrections can lead to conflicting conclusions on the type of aerosol when using the same data set. The AAE ranged between 1.17 for non-corrected data to 1.96 for the correction that gave the greatest values. Furthermore, the study implies that the AAEs reported for a site depend on at which filter transmittance the filter is changed. In this work, the AAEs were calculated from data measured with a three-wavelength particle soot absorption photometer (PSAP) at Elandsfontein on the South African Highveld for 23 months. The sample air of the PSAP was diluted to prolong filter change intervals, by a factor of 15. The correlation coefficient between the dilution-corrected PSAP and a non-diluted Multi-Angle Absorption Photometer (MAAP) was 0.9. Thus, the study also shows that the applicability of the PSAP can be extended to remote sites that are not often visited or suffer from high levels of pollution.